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The Universe and Me is Tobin Sprout’s sixth solo album. Each home recording was captured live with Sprout’s new band - which, they claim, leads to marvelous imperfections. The LP takes a deliberately primitive approach that focuses on feeling, as opposed to production. The result is a vague bridge between the ballads of psych-era Beatles, and the haunting vulnerability of Daniel Johnston’s Hi, How Are You?.
This album is certainly one that will divide listeners. The 14 tracks (36 min, 24 sec) are varied in both style and production values. But for those who are niggled by out of time drumming and the discordant clashing of instruments, this might be too much for you to take.
Easily the stand out tracks here are 'When I was a Boy' and 'Future Boy (Reprise)' - mainly because these actually sound like someone with talent has created them. The rest of the tracks are hit and miss... mostly miss. While I understand that Sprout is playing with the structure of highly polished production values which take away any of the spontaneity or flaws in live recordings, he does go a step too far with out of time drumming (on 'Heavenly Bones' its all over the place).
'Just One Kid (Takes On The World)' is a cacophony of sounds that don't gel well - and I could swear a riff has been borrowed from The Sex Pistols's 'God Save the Queen'.
The problem for me with this album is that it sounds unfinished, half-baked and more like a collection of demos practiced for the first time.
Fans of Sprout will love it, everyone else will find it a little harder to swallow.